In Ancient Egypt, man lived in harmony with nature, which they observed with extraordinary attention. They had an especially unique relationship with animals. For the first time the Louvre-Lens is revealing every facet of this exceptional bond between the Egyptians and the animal world. With 430 works the exhibition resurrects wildlife that has now largely disappeared, and recalls its essential role in Pharaonic civilisation.
Animals were ubiquitous in the everyday life of ancient Egyptians. They were hunted, raised and tamed, but also sacrificed and venerated. They interchanged between being a foodstuff, means of transport, medical remedy, companion and object of worship. Early on, the Egyptians also used the symbolic images conveyed by each animal in various ways. This is how the figure of the animal became a means to translate ideas, in a language that could be written or represented. The animal was a pillar of Egyptian thought, be it religious, funerary or political.
The exhibition offers visitors a dual approach, being both educational and aesthetic.
Firstly, it allows knowledge to be gained through nine thematic sections. These have a logical progression, from the simple physical perception of the actual creatures evolving in their natural environment, to their transposition to the codified language of Egyptian thought. Through the different sequences, the central theme of the animal figure allows many aspects of Egyptian civilisation to be seen, such as livestock, writing, the deities or even funeral rites. It also covers the entire chronology, from the end of prehistory to Romanisation.
At the same time, the exhibition unveils the richness and variety of the artistic productions based on the infinite source of inspiration provided by the animal kingdom. From an amulet in the shape of a frog to the monumental baboon sculpture of the Obelisk of Luxor, through to a snake coffin or ibis mummy; there is a collection of more than 430 objects. Apart from the zoological specimens from natural history museums, all of the objects come from the Egyptian collection of the Louvre, one of the primary collections worldwide. Some of the works, on an exceptional basis, come from the reserves of the Parisian Museum. Some have never been exhibited, or very rarely. Nearly two thirds have been restored for the occasion in the Louvre-Lens workshop, which is open to visitors.
The exhibition is enhanced with multimedia devices. A touch table allows visitors to manipulate 3D animal mummies and peer inside them, thanks to its medical scanner images.
On scene at the Louvre-Lens are shows, conferences and festive events to accompany the exhibition: a tribute concert to Farid El Atrache, traditional tales, a literary banquet, animal costume ball, carte blanche for the “Egypt-lover” choreographer Olivier Dubois, and a performance by Jeff Mills with images taken in the Louvre, etc.